An elite all-girls school in Nashville unveiled a new policy that opens enrollment to transgender females.
Harpeth Hall issued a letter to parents Tuesday declaring ‘any student who identifies as a girl may apply to our school’ and that the institution supports gender identity.
The $33,000-a-year Tennessee prep school, which educated actress Reese Witherspoon and singer Amy Grant, claims there has been ‘no change’ to the admissions application process which is ‘open to any female student.’
The school reiterated that its environment is centered around women and the new policy offers a safe space for students to express their gender identity.
The policy comes one month after a new state law issuing harsh penalties to public schools that allow trans athletes to participate in women’s sports went into effect.
Harpeth Hall’s memo did not address trans students participating in its sports, however, as a private school, it is not necessarily bound by the newly enacted law.
Harpeth Hall, an elite all-girls school in Nashville costing $33,000 annually, unveiled a new policy that opens enrollment to transgender females
Harpeth Hall issued a letter to parents Tuesday declaring ‘any student who identifies as a girl may apply to our school’ and that the institution supports gender identity
The school said its decision to open enrollment to all people who identify as female emphasizes the institution’s commitment to fostering an ‘inclusive educational environment.’
‘As the world evolves, so do our students. The concept concept of gender has expanded and deepened over time,’ the letter to parents read.
‘The cultural dialogue around gender is evolving rapidly. At Harpeth Hall, we are inspired and guided by our girls school mission and work every day to live fully and truly into our purpose.’
The new policy came after school administration, faculty and the Board of Trustees’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee came together to better understand gender identity.
The team consulted with field experts, read educational articles about the topic and spoke with other all-girls schools before deciding to expand its admissions policy.
The school said its decision to open enrollment to all people who identify as female emphasizes the institution’s commitment to fostering an ‘inclusive educational environment’
The letter to parents provided brief guidelines about admissions but used open-ended language and emphasized an individual basis for enrollment decisions.
‘Harpeth Hall is a girls school,’ the letter stated. ‘The school culture is unique and distinctly about girls, complete with the use of references to students as girls and young women and a collective use of female pronouns.’
The document went on to say that students join the school because the mission and women-centric environment resonates with them.
In cases of nonbinary students or those who use they/them pronouns will be addressed on an individual basis, the school said. Harpeth Hall would work individual families to meet students’ needs.
The policy also noted that a male trans student using he/him pronouns cannot be ‘served’ by an all-girls school. The institution would work directly with those families to determine next steps.
‘We see this acknowledgment as the ultimate form of respect: an understanding that we support the individual and the student’s gender identity,’ the statement said regarding male transgender students at the school.
In cases of nonbinary students or those who use they/them pronouns will be addressed on an individual basis, the school said. The policy also noted that a male trans student using he/him pronouns cannot be ‘served’ by an all-girls school
The elite academic institution has several notable alumni including actress Reese Witherspoon (left) and singer Amy Grant (right)
Jessica Bliss, director of marketing and communications at Harpeth Hall, told The Tennessean the school’s statement ‘does not reflect a change in admissions policy.’
‘We are and always have been an all-girls independent school,’ Bliss explained. ‘There has been no change to Harpeth Hall’s admission application process which is open to any female student.’
She said the policy allows students a safe environment to express themselves
‘We teach girls to respect each other and appreciate their differences,’ Bliss said. ‘Each girl is unique in her own way. Harpeth Hall fosters a community that is about kindness and belonging.’
News of the policy received mixed reaction online with some Tennesseans expressing outrage, while others echoed the school’s claim that it is supporting all women.
‘I love my trans sisters at Harpeth Hall! Paw down always’ student Chloe tweeted. ‘Trams girls are young girls! They deserve the same education as the rest of us Harpeth Hall gals. I feel very empowered to have them by my side.’
News of the policy received mixed reaction online with some Tennesseans expressing outrage, while others echoed the school’s claim that it is supporting all women
‘Harpeth Hall has lost its mind. Accepting boys who identify as girls???!!!’ Brentwood resident Lara Moses Whitaker posted to Facebook.
‘God, now my beloved Tennessee is going woke…’ Kathy Pence Suddath tweeted, commenting on radio show host Clay Travis’ seemingly negative post about the policy.
Rachel Dean, an alumnus of Harpeth Hall, commented on the Twitter thread, saying: ‘I am proud to say I went to harpeth hall. This thread disgusts me – so much hatred!’
‘Proud alumnus of Harpeth Hall,’ echoed Melissa H. ‘Wondering who this loser is & why he thinks his opinion of HH matters.’
Head of School Jess Hill (pictured) has not yet commented on the policy
Head of School Jess Hill has not yet commented on the policy, however her open letter on the school’s website touts cultivating a school community that ‘encourages academic curiosity, fosters belonging, and prepares girls to become purposeful young women ready to make a meaningful difference in the world around them.’
‘At Harpeth Hall, girls learn to have confidence in their opinions and respect the power of their voices,’ she wrote. ‘They also learn to listen for learning and understanding. Here, all students are seen, heard, and valued.
‘We don’t strive for perfection, instead we value progress. We encourage students to take healthy risks — even if they make mistakes — because we all learn best that way. We know that building confidence and resilience go hand in hand with learning to lead ourselves and others.’
Last month, a new state law went into effect banning transgender athletes from participating in girls sports.
The bill, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, went into effect on July 1 and adds harsh penalties against public schools who violate the ban.
It is unclear if Harpeth Hall will allow trans athletes to compete on its sports teams, as the school did not address that in its letter.
Furthermore, Tennessee enacted legislation that would prevent trans women from competing on college sports teams consistent with their gender identity.